February Flew By

Last month started with the MR’s birthday, and a visit from our sweet girls and ended with a quick trip to Oregon to see them in turn. Two visits with our kids in a month is rather delightful.

Sandwiched between those was a lot of rain, a lot of snow, and a lot of crazy. In Winter Wonderland I shared the joys of snow outside and a cozy fire inside which led to questions and a whole blog on the History of Our Fireplace. It’s gone through a lot of changes over the past five years. Remember the conversation pit and the green carpet?


When a Tree Falls in the Woods, I asked that it stay off our driveway. Me and the MR worked up a sweat clearing branches, small trees, limbs, and debris from our only way out.


Of course that wasn’t the end of travel woes. All the snow and rain—it’s been the wettest February on record in Seattle since 1961—caused part of the road up our hill to collapse into a steep ravine. (Check out Winter Storms & Prepping for Spring.) They are working on it, but for now we have another one lane road to navigate on the way home.

With the power out, no TV, trapped at home, that gave me lots of time to knit, right? What should have been a good thing turned into trouble when hand-dyed shade variations showed up in a big way on my fingering-weight cardigan edged in lace. I’m still mourning the loss or maybe pouting is a better word for it. This is one time when Following the Rules would have paid off in a big way.


On the positive side, How’s That for Color? featured our picks for new carpet in three of the bedrooms. Baby Girl has a ton of stuff, so her bedroom will have to wait until she totally moves out. One of our color choices is in production and should be available in mid-March, so we’ve had the rooms measured, made a down payment, and are just waiting a few weeks to schedule installation.

For me, The Best Part of Winter is getting up before the sun. I could probably do it during the summer, but 4 am comes awfully early. I love watching the everchanging sky in the mornings.


With more snow this week, enough to delay schools but not enough to keep us trapped at home, I did notice how pretty the front doors are with their mountains backlit with real snow.


Cocoa agrees with me, of course.

For March, I’m hoping for fewer storms and a better attitude. While there’s nothing I can do about the first, I’m working on the second.

How was your February?



The History of a Fireplace Big, White House Style

I received a great email this weekend from my mother-in-law. It read:

This is our friend, the cocktail waitress in LV where you both and Baby Girl stayed one time with us, and she LOVES you blog and I thought you better than I could tell her where to best look for info on the fireplace.  I told her, but she wants pictures.  MK


PLEASE tell that WONDERFUL daughter in law there is a story about that fireplace. I bet it was not that nice until they improved it. Worthy of blog info.—-tell her I want to hear about IT    !!!!!!     FFQ

So this one is for MeeMee’s friend Linda. Honey, all you have to do is ask…

I was kind of surprised, because after a few years you get used to things. You forget how they were. They’ve always been this way, right? So for those of you who haven’t been with us from the beginning, we’re going to go back, back to the time when the Big White House on the Hill looked more like something out of Miami Vice, back when everything was white except for the carpet. I still can’t believe the MR talked me into moving here with the bugs, and the mice, in the middle of nowhere.

In those days, it wasn’t just a fireplace. It was a fireplace and conversation pit because everyone has to have one. A friend suggested we should turn it into a ball pit.  Our kids were 17 and 13, otherwise we might have seriously considered it.

Conversation pit or ball pit which would you prefer?

Conversation pit or ball pit which would you prefer?

It took me months to wrap my head around this space. We’ve had fireplaces in all our homes, and I’d always wanted a mantel, but now I had 10-feet of space to decorate. And with the three-foot drop, I needed a step stool to put anything on it. When you don’t know what to do—do nothing. That’s always been my MO.

A few books, a few flowers, a 2-foot-tall candle can all do wonders.


And while white on white was where we started, me and the MR where intent on adding color. The walls in Sherwin Williams Accessible Beige and Tony Taupe where a fairly simple choice, but what could we do with the fireplace? Would a little paint help hide the speakers and the dumb-waiter for the wood? Could we make this more of a focal point?

I did a little brainstorming in Let’s Talk Color and came up with this color scheme.


Adding some dark gray would help blend in the granite, and painting the stair step walls gray would set them off from the background taupe.

I was surprised to see how closely my color overlays matched the final outcome. The major difference was that we decided to have the mantel and the hearth painted in the darker color as well.

Fireplace plus background

Check out “The Big Reveal” for all the freshly painted pictures. While this picture looks green, it’s actually gray with greenish undertones.

Sadly, we still had the very uncomfortable conversation pit, but look at how beautiful the molding looks set off by the gray paint. It took another year-and-a-half for us to get Out of the Pit or at least to save enough money to fill in the pit, but we did it.

Pit Construction

Once the trusses where in and the subfloor was in, we had the carpet removed, weird orange underlay put down, and the whole thing covered with a faux-concrete flooring.

Orange floor at sunset

Yes, we have lived through a whole lot of crazy putting this house together.


You can see how our fireplace changed from year-to-year.

Over the Years Fall Fireplace Collage

And now we where just waiting for new chairs to cozy up to the fireplace.

Fireplace seating

Sadly, chairs where not enough. It was looking a little sterile. We needed pillows, throws, and a rug. Can we add a little softness and color?

fireplace chairs with new throw 2

We’ve moved around the plants, and the mantel itself is in constant flux with the seasons, but it still looks very similar to Baby Girl’s rendering for one of her first college classes.

BGs Sketch

In the last year, I’ve swapped out the hexagon tables for a footstool. This made for a very cozy place for our feet while the fireplace was in constant use during the recent power outages.

It’s fun to look back and see all that we’ve done over the past five years. I’d forgotten about the old boiler failing to turn on and heat the house that first winter after installing the heat pump. I guess that was the year we were in Mexico and Sweet Miss texted that it was 40-degrees—inside. I did feel a little guilty that she came home to a cold house.

If this doesn’t fulfill your hankering for info on the fireplace, you can always go to the blog and search for fireplace or mantel in the search engine. You’ll get to see all the fun fall and Christmas mantels plus a few spring and Valentine’s ones. Maybe I should get busy with a new one for the coming holiday.

What’s on your mantel? Does it change with the seasons?

P.S. I am not perfect. I have been known to spell “mantel” mantle upon occasion—I know, I know, it’s an article of clothing not an architectural feature. I think I’ve got it down now.

P.P.S. Thanks Linda for subimitting your request. I’d never have found this great picture of the girls if you hadn’t had me looking for fireplace stories. Strangely enough, the post with this picture had nothing about fireplaces or mantels, but I sure do love my sweet girls.

The girls





Christmas in Green

The last few years—OK maybe forever—I’ve been decorating the house for Christmas in red and white and lots of sparkle. But sometimes you just want to shake things up. I could have gone with a pink-and-blue 50’s theme tree or aqua and seashells for that beachy look, but that’s just not me.

Sweet Miss and Baby Girl were home over Thanksgiving and I had them start putting all those ribbon trees I’d made on the china hutch, and it just kind of worked. Before you know it, we had santas, and snowmen, and angels scattered through our own little forest.


I like how all the little knick-knacks look like they belong nestled amongst the trees rather than random figurines on a buffet.


With this woodsy feel in mind, I thought the sparkle and glitz of past mantels would look odd. That left me with boxes of decorations on the floor and a lot of indecision. But I saw this sweet little birdy on the Target website and fell in love.


He was supposed to come in a set of three, but they were sold out. Luckily, I found this little guy when I stopped in at the store with the MR. Later on a more leisurely shopping trip, I went to HomeGoods, and picked up some twine-covered bells and random decorative balls. Target had lovely wood snowflake lights and more nature-inspired balls to help fill out the scene. The snowflake lights glow and look quite sweet at night.


I used leftover ribbon from the trees to swag across the mantel along with some burlap ribbon I picked up at Wal-mart. I simply ran the ribbon through small rings and hung them with 3M hooks.


Bows could be used to cover the hooks and rings, but I didn’t want it to get too fussy.

The MR put his foot down when we went to the tree farm, so our tree is a little shorter (around 9-feet) this year, but it still feels like we’ve brought a bit of the forest inside.


I’ve been decorating bit-by-bit this Christmas. The nativity set my folks made when they were newlyweds is still waiting for a spot, and the girls santa collages haven’t found wall space. But I’m giving myself a pass. I don’t have to be perfect and have my house all together all the time to enjoy this wonderful season.

Me and Baby Girl went shopping this week, and we made tasty cookies/candy with a recipe from MeeMee. If everything’s doesn’t happen, it’ll still be a great Christmas with my family. And there’s always next year.

How’s your decorating coming along? What’s a favorite thing to do this time of year?




Celebrating August

It’s been a pretty awesome month with family and friends and a lot of sunshine.


We celebrated Milestones with the girls.

Anniversary Canvas

Dealt with a proliferation of broccoli and cucumbers in Ain’t It Funny and saved some Herb-alicious goodness for the cold days of winter.

Rosemary Cubes Closeup

We did a little shopping and Super-Sized a rug, Problem Solved with a new floor lamp, and Added a Little Drama with some new nightlights.

ALD Light on Maple at Night

The MR has been busily remodeling the guest bedroom bath. I Teased You with a glimpse of tile, shared the newly glorified shower Somewhere In the Middle, and showed you Bit by Bit how it’s all coming together.

New Shower

I dreamed a little about a backyard waterfall—Just Imagine, and dreamed too of winning a Fitbit challenge against my 22-year-old. It’s just A Little Friendly Competition, but I have been getting in more steps lately. I think I’ve won one challenge in the last three weeks. I do have a few years on her and tend to go to bed before my Sweet Miss. Who knows, maybe I’ll actually lose a few pounds.

The MR has picked up the new sink/counter combo for the guest bathroom, and I do have plans to make up those new throw pillows I bought the fabric for way back in June. We’ve done a little shopping, a little planning, Baby Girl is moving back to school in a few weeks, and I have a few surprises to throw your way. September is always a good month.

How is your fall shaping up? Are you in the full back-to-school mode?

Problem Solving

Often, me and the MR can be found watching a show come evening after a bit of hanging out on the deck and some dinner. It’s nice to have a little time to unwind.

Unfortunately, I’ve watched the first half of dozens of movies and TV shows never to see the end. Snuggled up next to my guy on the couch, I conk out without fail. While it’s nice to be cozy, I do actually want to know what’s going in my favorite shows and to be able to tell you without reservation that the guy did get the girl, or that the good guys won, or the aliens have been vanquished. The MR’s recall of events tends to be limited.

So I’ve started knitting or crocheting. This keeps my hands occupied, my mind working, and my eyes open. We have lots of overhead lighting that sadly tends to bother the rest of the viewers. Back in February, I talked about Rethinking Light and perhaps repositioning some of the overhead lights. It’s been six months, and it’s still no closer to happening. We don’t have a ladder tall enough to reach the lights, and if we did, I wouldn’t want to climb it.

While the MR’s folks were visiting, I took to moving my chair under a spotlight of sorts, but who wants to move your furniture every night?


Besides, if left me feeling a little anit-social. I still want to be part of the group. Task lighting is a problem with all of our main seating area floating in the center of the room.

So, I went into problem-solver mode. This week, I spotted a floor lamp on Joss & Main for just $61.95 ($0 tax, and $0 shipping because I did a little more shopping). It seemed like a no-brainer. The area back by the fireplace has plug-ins, and still feels like part of the seating area. A floor lamp would actually help balance the plant on the other side of the arrangement. And if we truly hated it, Sweet Miss is in need of floor lamps; we can always ship it off to Oregon.

I was totally shocked when it arrived this morning. It was in a few pieces that simply screwed together in a matter of minutes. The light is totally positionable so I can direct it on all my projects. No more dropped stitches, no short rows, and no mistakes of any kind. OK, maybe I won’t go that far, but you get the gist.

It’s a bright sunny day with no need for lights of any kind, and I have plans with my guy after work tonight, so I’ll have to try out my new lamp sometime later this weekend. Don’t worry; I’ll give you the low down in the monthly recap.

I know; I’ve made you wait long enough. I think the new floor lamp is quite charming.

New Light

In some ways, it reminds me of the big dryer that they put over your head at the beauty salon—thankfully, only a little.

If you’re in the mood for new lighting, this is the Vanessa Floor Lamp from Joss & Main. We used to go to church with a lady named Vanessa who was quite fabulous. So far, her namesake is living up to the reputation.

Any creative prolem-solving going on at your home?







Make It Mod

Sometimes you get up in the morning and start typing away on the computer and realize something’s wrong.  Maybe your surge protector and modem are fried, your satellite is on the fritz, and Downton Abbey didn’t record.  That was my Monday.

The MR overnighted a modem and put everything back together last night, and now my Monday post will be even better on a Wednesday morning with all the anticipation that’s been building.  So without further ado:

When you spend a large chunk of change on furniture, you might relax on the details for a little while.  Take this planter for instance. It’s not really our colors anymore, but it looks fine behind the cozy fireplace chairs.

Planter Behind Chair

Ug, after I de-Christmasified the great room, I forgot to add the blanket and pillows that warm up this space. Its always something.

But let’s move in closer. If you turn the corner and take another look, it’s far from pretty.

Old Planter

I don’t know who’s been scratching and clawing on it, but this pot has seen better days.  There’s also the fact that it was transplanted flush with the top of the pot, so you can’t ever thoroughly water the poor thing.  This plant has been struggling for years.

With that in mind, I asked the MR for a new planter for Christmas—romantic, huh?  Now, this was a splurge, something I wouldn’t normally spend that much money on, but since it was a present I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask. Our house could take an infusion of cool, sleek, and modern.

So last weekend in the midst of our sunny, dry spell, I grabbed my new planter, some worm castings, and our plant in desperate need of a new pot.


OK, so the MR doesnt like it when I get the deck dirty, so I took a picture here and then muddied up the stoop off the laundry room. This is a much prettier setting

And before you know it, it was all back to normal.  The pots were actually the same size, so I trimmed the root ball a bit, added some fertilizer, and new potting soil.  I’m hoping this fern will experience a growth spurt with all that extra TLC.


Currently, my new plant stand is a little hidden.  I took away the small table the old pot sat on.  Maybe we’ll have to do some rearranging so my Christmas present gets the attention it deserves.


It’s exciting to be able to start adding some fun details.  Just the simple wood plant stands are available on Etsy.  Maybe I’ll buy some plain pots and order a few stands at a more reasonable price.

What details make you smile?


October Changes

This has been a month of adjustments. It hasn’t simply been a change of season or cooler weather; our lives are changing.

We dropped Baby Girl off at college, and suddenly our schedules are wide open.  After 21 years with kids at home, we’ve entered A New Phase in life. The first thing me and the MR have decided is to travel a lot more. While it’s always been something we’ve liked, now we’re planning adventures on a regular basis. We want to be able to explore the world while we’re still young and healthy enough to enjoy it.

At the waterfall

So this month we experienced The Beauty of Iceland with it’s geysers, waterfalls, and hot springs. Book a massage at the Blue Lagoon if you ever get a chance; it’s a surreal experience.

Our Next Stop was London with its funky mixture of old and new.  My advice is to wear comfy shoes, bring a raincoat, and buy a pass for the tubes.

Fusion of Architecture

We ended our trip in Beautiful Barcelona with its amazing architecture and masses of shoppers.  Our visit to Sigrada Familia, Awash in Color, left me astonished. It was just so beautiful.  I loved the play of light, the whimsy of the nativity entrance, and the starkness of the passion side. Gaudi’s goal was to tell the story of Jesus through this cathedral, and he’s done an amazing job. This is a must-see destination for our architecture student.  Perhaps we’ll be back for its planned completion in 2026—100 years after the famous architect’s death.

SG Colorwash Warm

Just above the trees next to my head, you can see the whimsical fruit decorating the lower towers. Those are the fruit we passed on our journey down from the Passion Tower. Let’s just say, we were way the heck up there.  The English tour of the cathedral, plus the visit to the adjacent museum and the Passion Tower were well worth the price.

Tower Fruit Collage

You may have noticed while we were gone, I kept posting as if we were home. Well, we don’t want anyone bothering the housesitter. Sorry to mislead you, but we were erring on the safe side.

Looking back at My Love-Hate Relationship with Pinterest, I have made a lot of recipes and been inspired by all those ideas. Then again, lot of projects have been merrily pinned and then forgotten.  I was frustrated when I read one of the leaf projects I’d saved and thought would look great on the china hutch. They used fake leaves from the dollar store. Don’t they know my yard and driveway are covered?

The inspiration for All That Goodness was found on Pinterest, so I guess it is useful. My salad at least was tasty.  I’ve been drying cuttings from outside to add to my herb collection.  I attended a class last spring, and the speaker said dried herbs from your yard have much more flavor than those from the store.

Drying Rack Herbs

With a view like that, they have to taste great.  Blue skies mixed with torrential rains and flooding. It must be fall.

I’ve been contentedly watching sunrises and sunsets again. In the summer, I’m not up at 4:30 when the sun rises, and we miss the sun as it sets behind a stand of trees. Now the sky is a showstopper once more.  I love when the sun peaks through stormy skies like in The Color of the Season flooding the trees with golden light.

Speaking of color, I added a few lumpy, bumpy gourds to the china hutch to Dress It Up for Fall.  Now that Halloween is over, I’ll put away a few trinkets but keep the punches of orange and cream.

China Hutch Gourds

I need to remember to clear out my junk when taking photos.  So yes, as you can see, we have more little Christmas trees in the works, and I was going through old photos. Mine is not a perfect house, but aren’t those gourds cool?

Baby Girl’s first quarter of college is going well. She’s in the process of applying for the School of Architecture, and we’re so proud of her.  She was disappointed when others didn’t put as much effort into their Homework Musings, but I love her rendition of the fireplace—the center of our home.

BGs Sketch

Sad Goodbyes focused on the recent passing of my sister-in-law’s mom.  My mom would have celebrated her 72nd birthday this month. She’s been gone for 10 years now, and I was thinking the other day how many things she’s missed. She’s missed proms and graduations, weddings and the birth of her first great-granchild. She never went to a volleyball game and didn’t get to see my kids grow from round-cheeked. little girls into beautiful young women. She would have been bossy, and nosy, and overpowering, and wonderful.  She loved them and loved being part of their lives.

So take care of yourself and take time for those you love. You just never know what tomorrow brings.

Now that I’m all teary, let’s change the subject to something more mundane; let’s talk worms.  I killed mine again, but I’ve called in Reinforcements.  We have 2,000 red wigglers doing their job out in the worm bin.

My sweet mother-in-law also put me in contact with the only other person she knows who keeps worms, and I received some very good advice.  Fruit flies can be a nuisance, so we had put up fly strips and moved the bin out by the edge of the garage.  The heat fluctuation could be causing problems.

The expert suggested not putting fruit scraps in the bin and composting them outside instead.  Unfortunately, I don’t want to attract other wildlife to our house, but I am going to have to do some rearranging to try and keep my new friends alive and eating my food scraps.

That about does it for October. I’m sure we’ll have new adventures to share this month. The MR replaced the light in the coat closet and says he feels like he needs some inside projects now that the rains have started.  I’ll keep you posted.

How was your October?